Previous Covid-19 hot spots in US crack down on parties as virus makes a return

Inspectors issued 106 violations to restaurants and bars over the weekend for not following containment orders. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - Blow-out parties and rising cases nationally prompted New Jersey to lower crowd caps and New York to call for stricter distancing enforcement or risk resurgence of the coronavirus in the pandemic's early US epicentre.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy cut the indoor-gathering limit by 75 per cent, to 25 people, after a spate of house parties led to almost 100 cases. The state's virus transmission rate, a key spread indicator, has jumped to the highest since early April.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said weekend gatherings ignoring social-distancing rules - including a party boat with 170 guests aboard cruising around Manhattan and a rave that drew hundreds beneath the Kosciuszko Bridge in Brooklyn - will lead the virus to boomerang around the country. Inspectors issued 106 violations to restaurants and bars over the weekend for not following containment orders.

While the United States reported a rise in new cases of less than 1 per cent, below the 1.4 per cent average of the past week, states that suffered the most in March and April saw causes for alarm.

They have joined Connecticut in requiring visitors from almost three dozen states deemed as trouble zones to self-quarantine, and are taking a cautious approach as the start of school nears.

Governor Cuomo said on Monday (Aug 3): "It will continue, this ricocheting across the country, because that's what viruses do."

In Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner told police to start issuing warnings and citations for anyone without a mask on.

"There are too many street parties, house parties, zydecos on the corners, backyard parties, and more happening in our city especially when individuals are not wearing masks," Mayor Turner said in a post on Twitter on Monday.

Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, had been a success story as cases did not start rising as people ventured out more. But on Sunday, a state report showed 235 new infections per 100,000 people last week, while the national average is 137 per 100,000.

"Georgia continues to experience a high plateau of case incidence and saw an increase in testing positivity over the past week," according to the report.

Some states reported positive indicators on Monday, though weekend delays can skew data. Arizona recorded 1,030 new cases, the lowest since late June, though its positivity rate - the percentage of people tested who turn out to have the virus - remains critically high at 12.9 per cent statewide.

In California, Governor Gavin Newsom signalled the state may be turning a corner after a surge of infections in July, with the seven-day average for new cases falling 21 per cent from last week. The average positivity rate over seven days has slipped to 6.1 per cent from a peak of 8 per cent late last month.

"It is encouraging," Governor Newsom said at a briefing on Monday. "At the same time, we can quickly find ourselves back to where we were just a few weeks ago, a month ago, with significant increases, if we do not maintain our vigilance."

The US surpassed 155,000 deaths and cases reached 4.69 million on Monday.

If the numbers do not come down nationally, "we're going to have a really bad situation in the fall", Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview online with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"As you get indoors and you get the complication of influenza, that's something that we're going to have to deal with," Dr Fauci said.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.